Monster taming game

Index

Regarding Pokémon

I've always wanted to do a Pokémon game. I'm not sure how much work it is. I've started writing design docs many times. So many times. Pokémon is brilliant game idea at its core, but I think its potential is much larger. The game is equipped with an Everstone, perhaps.

I was already "too old" for Pokémon when it came out. Certainly too old to fully enjoy it. Pokémon is probably a lot more fun with when you're 10 and have a kind of... social gaming life. You, and everyone else, are so available to dive into a project (beating a game). It can be the most important thing for a while.

Now, I feel bad about wasting time. I have work to do! Manipulating these virtual bytes won't leave a cultural legacy! I don't like how this game is designed! These NPCs are just repeating text strings ad nauseum... now I have lost all immersion!

Anyways, the strengths of the game are self evident, so onto the flaws of the game.

Trainer Fort Craft!

I was thinking something along the lines of, you'd have a group of trainers catching wild monsters and building a base (with the help of the monsters), defending against Team Rocket and their base, and/or natural/random threats. Magicarp in the rivers. 'Dug too deep' - found Legendary, etc.

X-MON

The monsters take on the role as the evil aliens. The trainers are humans who operate secret resistance bases around the world. They use flying monsters to intercept and shoot down the invading aliens. Instead of the Skyranger, the monsters are transported on a larger flying monster while in their cute compact form. Upon landing, they evolve into their combat form. Dead aliens return to their cute form but certain form-enabling items which might be extracted in a laboratory if lucky, and researched then manufactured. Trainers have psychic points which are used to control captured specimens. Captured monsters can also assist in base defense, air support, construction, excavation, etc.

On Pokémon Monster Design

Designing Pokémon is really difficult. Just drawing something cute won't work. Both Ken Sugimori and Akira Toriyama are really good at removing superfluous detail, keeping things simple and expressive, and adding a "thing" which adds character. The DQ slimes have faces with just the right amount of detail. The skeletons have a strangely tall and thus memorable head, so they're not just plain skeletons. Magnemite's body is abstract, but is made up by meaningful mechanical objects. Bulbasaur is not just some toad-lizard thing, it has the plant-shell element which makes you go "Bulbasaur!" rather than "Oh, cute lizard, I guess".

So, I think a good Pokémon design (aside from being well drawn) should be:

* Also, perhaps the exotic constituents of a Pokémon should have some verb or feeling associated with them (immediate), otherwise the design will feel a little empty. Look at Blastoise's cannons, or Magnemite's magnets. You can sort of imagine Bulbasaur's plant-bud being a cannon, and container of surprises. Shuckle has a shell with little holes that its limbs can retract into (verb). Rayquaza has razorblade-like (I think I mean razor wire) things on it, and it's easy to imagine the damage it could do by wrapping its body around stuff. Weedle's head has a spike, which might lead you to believe it's poisonous. It's a visual language. The Pokémon is a sentence which describes it. You don't want that to be nonsense.

I think a lot of the bird designs fail in this regard, and also most of the legendaries. That said, a design can fail in the other direction. I can draw a large revolver with legs and call it sprintgunmon. It might seem like such a design is effective at conveying it's capabilities, but logically it would be too hard to explain it. Why is it imitating the entire revolver shape when there's no hand to hold it? While I'm at it, what's the use in imitating an ice cream, or cogs? At least Voltorb and Foongus has some sort of reason, game mechanically. And Magnemite could conceivably just be a robotic creature which has assumed an efficient shape. I think it's screws are the hardest part of it to explain, but they enhance the robo feeling unlike random knobs.

To the right, some examples of what would happen if one replaced Bulbasaur's bulbous plant-bud with nonsense decoration as seen on many legendaries. Also, a few designs which would make me uneasy, but each to his own.


Exploration

I'm sitting on enough doodles for 5-10 generations (probably several thousand thumbnails). Most of it is garbage/unrefined though, so here's a few colored ones which are approaching a semblance of finish. If I'm going to use the multiple evolutions idea, I need to collapse and speciate some of the designs, so the morphologies match and there are no lone designs lacking evolutions. Looking at these 2013, I really feel like redoing most of them.

And new 2013. Taking more of a spray and pray approach.

Style test

Here I'm experimenting with Photoshop's brushes a bit (I normally use a plain round flat brush). Setting and ink brush to a 35% min diameter and 60% size jitter for natural line roughness might be something which I'll continue to do. I like varied line weight, but the superthin part of the lines isn't that useful when doing cartoon lines. Better to dot-fade them into "lost line".

Trying water color, like the early Pokémon artwork. This is the Hantite. The visual pun is Elephant-Mosquito.

Trying something more opaque with the Fnoal. I wanted to do a sort of coal fur ball on silly legs, but the volumes aren't working quote yet.

Tangents

On Later Gens

I bought Pokémon Black (1), which was a mistake because the dragon in White is cooler, and White forest has more Pokémon to catch. I think Gen 1 has some of the best designs, overall, even if there are a lot of them that I don't like. Exeggutor perhaps being the worst offender.

It seems to me that the later gens have been more... "cute animal with extra shapes and patches on it" (nonsense decoration), with only a few really strong designs. The birds have been mostly disappointing in all gens though. I haven't really made a list, but I like perhaps 30 of the gen 1 Pokémon, and 15 from each new gen. In Black, I chose the evolution lines of Sewaddle, Venipede and Deino. Oshawott is cute, but derails. Foongus is much better than Voltorb/Electrode as a Pokéball-mon. Dwebble beats Parasect as it has a better emotive capacity (though Parasect has the creepy background story).

I caught what Gen 1 I could in Black. None of my favorites - Diglett, Magnemite, Scyther, Bellsprout, Tenta* - were available. My Durant is my first L100, but it has terrible EV/IVso I'm gonna replace it with a Rattata that's in the top percent, as the meme goes. Fearow is my Fly HM slave, but I'm going to replace it with a flying Doduo, which is many magnitudes more awesome.

Diversion

I thought it would be a good/fun idea to tackle the morphological problems in the Dratini - Dragonair - Dragonite evolution line (and do an art style test). But ultimately, I think my designs here are unwarranted because they lack a certain... direct visual pun/punch, and are instead doing the nonsense-decoration thing which was so prevalent in Gen 3 (especially?) (and also in fan designed Pokémon in general, including mine I suppose.). The Air -> Ozone (O3) thing is obscure, and my "Drakite" is just a meaningless babby... and it collides a bit with the Lapras and Horsea designs

Still, curious I am whether the morphological discrepancies between the evolutionary stages of various Pokémon bothers anyone else, to the degree that they bother me (quite a bit). Perhaps they do need to be very different to better cover the design space, and the evolution mechanic is like magic anyways.

Distracted by Curiosity

Some of you may know that the Curiosity rover (MSL) had a little skirmish with a rock soon after landing. I thought I'd turn in into a Pokémon because I'm weird like that. Actually, it has already been anthropomorphized by NASA who gave the rock, temporarily labeled N165, a twitter account. They eventually gave it a new name, "Coronation". Deoxys stood model for my design here, since Deoxys is the NASA Pokémon (and one of my top 20 perhaps). Blueberries are small round stones which were found on Mars by one of the older rovers.

2013 stuff

My Mega Evolutions

With X/Y coming out, I wanted to fool around with some Mega designs. Blastoise looked sort of off so I gave my version even more guns. The fact that Blastoise had mechanical guns never bothered me for some reason. I guess integrated weapons fall into the cyborg category which feels sort of natural (other integrated objects might feel more invasive and wut).

I felt the Venusaur design needed to change more. Bud->bloom->decay and cycle back to bud? Experimented with coral snake (venomous) claws because it needed a new thing.

No ideas for Charmander, just felt I had to complete the trio, but didn't get past the sketch state. Thought about putting fires on all of the knobs but it got messy. Felt it was unwise to proceed without an idea for something new.

It's GRAVE DIGLETT! Sealed biosphere. I put a skull on the pot first, but the skull face (looked a bit like the Awesome from Mech Warrior) took too much attention from the real head.

Remade Voltorb and Electrode... went overboard and applied my usual mecha shape. They're cousins of Magnemite, perhaps.

I don't think they should ever give Diglett a lower body. The whole point with its design is the absurdity

Thoughts on Digimon

I decided to check out Digimon. I never liked the designs, but I think almost any design will develop a certain charm once you're more familiar with it (does not excuse being sloppy though). Digimon might look superficially similar to Pokémon, there's the pet aspect and the Pikachu-like Patamon, but the monsters are really more like traditional RPG monsters than the cute pets of Pokémon. I watched season 1 of the Digimon animé and I have to say the setting and plot is stronger than Pokémon's. Digimon is a bit like DBZ with the base form of the characters (monsters) discovering new but temporary super forms (the transformation sequences get really obnoxious though). Pokémon is more mindless with its constant barrage of short stories with Team Rocket getting their plans foiled.

I think the monster designs in Digimon improved slightly with Tamers, but they are still quite random, meaning, where they could have been function and cleverness and puns, there are random patches of colors and "stuff". I feel like the later generations of Pokémon designs have gone towards a similar destination. Where Digimon does belts, knife blades, almost horror-esque sets of teeth, skulls and stitches, and slaps all this onto more traditional types of RPG enemies, Pokémon now often does random tufts of hair, simple color fields and slaps this onto cute looking animals. I'd rather have something that is visually pleasing AND clever than just visually pleasing. Hey! I've already ranted about this, so let's move on!

Doodle Time!

All this said, I decided to just throw down a couple of more Digimon'esque monsters to see what happened. There's some Pokémon and general RPG influences in there as well. I was thinking the monsters unlock their transforms using elements, which affect their dress-up in similar ways. It's just my lazy way of explaining why I do the same shoulder pads on everyone.

First piece. Note the sort of random color fields. The fat orange thing has a boomerang shape on the belly but it actually gets a boomerang in a later form. The purple guy is posed especially badly so I redid him later on. The baby forms are random blobs, but they do foreshadow some of the details in their higher forms.

One aspect that I liked about Digimon was the creepyness of some of the designs, like Tokomon's and Birdramon's nastily toothed maws. It's also kind of relaxing to just draw tons of random stuff and not care about being clever. Perhaps these designs can be nudged into cleverness later? Some of these monsters are higher forms (Tier 3) of the ones drawn above. Note that certain physical shapes, such as the bug limbs, are just morphed rather than added (they're retracted on the flying version).

Having trouble deciding on stuff. Unsure if there are bad guy human invaders to fight (might get monotonous), or if humans are a form of the monsters (e.g. Angewomon), or regular trainers/tamers.

Opened up an ancient tome, from which sprung a myriad of twisted visions. This sheet builds on the idea of elements which unlock new forms. An otherwise cute monster can take a dark turn if fed with certain elements.

Blastoise! Actually a firefly, but it's hard to tell without colors. Might do a crotch cannon for an alt. form. Also, Velicoraptor-Blackwidow-Scorpion-Ostrich! You wouldn't want to be bitten by an ostrich! No, really, you wouldn't!

Scyther! My favourite Pokémon and I never even caught it. I "Dazzle" camouflaged it, which breaks up the shapes but I wanted to do something unusual to distance it from Scyther. Gave it Gargomon gatlins. Also, I'm thinking there's an evil lady who keeps showing up in outrageous new outfits (gets upset when her disguises fail?). I need to think of a Team Rocket of some sort too. Can't decide on a landsquid. Hey! Is that some Golden Axe chicken I see? Undeadimperialdramonhitmonchan?

Might not include this one :o

Fossil

Bats exploration

Chikorita bunchies

Thoughts on Stats

I sort of enjoy coming up with data structures, even if the user never sees them. It's 2013 and I now have several "monster" projects. Having looked into Digimon and its morphing system (well, in the animé), I wanted to explore how stats could work for such a project. Since the form of a monster can be changed back and forth, I think it would be handy to use a lot of multipliers rather than baking the stats into single numbers.

Balance value

This value should be 1.0 for most monsters, but it can be used to create super monsters or feeble monsters by simply scaling all stats.

Level

This value multiplies the stats like in most RPGs, perhaps along the lines of BaseAgility*(Level+10) so we get a decent level 1 value (e.g. 8*(1+10)=88 ) (perhaps in fixed point). However...

Stat tweaks

I love clicking the [+] buttons in Diablo (didn't play 3). I'm not sure if it makes sense, but I want to combine this approach with auto-raised stats. Basically. with each level-up the stats go up automatically, but the player can also distribute a few level-up points to tweak the stats a little in some direction (I didn't Pokémon's particular implementation of EV training). The formula above could be modified to BaseAgility*(Level+10+AgilityTweakPoints)

Basic global stats

The monsters can appear in baby form, all the way up to giant monster. The base stats are sort of independent from the appearance of the baby form and are more used to create the general feel of the monster (e.g. ninja magician). These values could be set with "LOW" to "HIGH" constants to make things more readable.

Form independent abilities (like active/passive healing). Can these be aquired? Seems like spells/magic should be learnable if Magic prof. is high enough.

Form dependent abilities (also scales with form, e.g. Dual T3-size gatlin cannons) (maybe weapons are type colored, e.g. plant cannons shoot seed, spore grenades etc.)

Scale (Tier) multiplier

I only have 4 tiers in mind at the moment, so this would be a simple list of multipliers, such as T1 = 1.0, T2 = 1.3, T3 = ... Possibly one multiplier per stat is needed, because I'm thinking that with greater size... agility would actually lower a little in general because larger can be clumsier, and this encourages smaller forms. HP might go up a little extra with mass too.

Normalized form stats

As a designer I want to be able to be able to look at a design and say, this guy looks relatively fat (ignoring it's size) and thus gets LOW agility and HIGH health. These are of course multiplied with the Tier scalers, Basic stats, etc. Random idea, these stats are set by the elements which unlock the form, meaning, a very fat armoured form would need several Fat and Armour elements. A Lovecraftian design gets high mental stats from the Dark/Ancient whatever elements. If it's fast, an element for agility is needed, etc. This would make it easy to match the stats against the elements needed. More powerful designs require more elements to make them harder to unlock. I'm not sure if they normalize or stack up stat improvements.

Form tweaks

Perhaps the player's favourite form of a monster could be sponsored somehow? It could be getting independent experience or be boosted by items. Perhaps it could be permanently locked into a form, making it less adaptive but more powerful.


Art by Arne Niklas Jansson

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